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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006

E 392M • Conrad, Aesthetics and Narrative Theory

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35745 T
5:00 PM-8:00 PM
PAR 305

Course Description

"A series of outrages...executed here in this country; not only planned here-that would not do-they would not mind.... A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion now must go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive."

Not a plan for September 11, 2001 in New York or March 11, 2004 in Madrid or July 7, 2005 in London, or almost any day in many cities of Iraq. Rather, two sentences from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (1907), which is hardly unique among his fiction in describing a world in the shadow of waning empire, superseded national fidelities and cultural allegiances, and fatigued language at the turn of the 20th century- a world very much with us at the turn of the 21st. This seminar will focus on that world, and on that writer (born Josef Teodor Konrad Naecz Korzeniowski), one of the most idiosyncratic, writerly (both humanely and perversely so), and endlessly rewarding figures in the entire literary canon- something his place inside it forever disturbs and kineticizes. In this seminar we won't try to do too much; we will:

1. Read texts by Conrad including A Personal Record, and Mirror of the Sea; several novels- Nostromo, Lord Jim, 'Nigger' of the Narcissus, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, Victory are probable choices- and some short fiction: "Falk," "Freya of the Seven Gables," "An Outpost of Progress," "An Anarchist," "The Tale."

 2. Examine certain key concepts in narrative theory with reference to those texts, i.e., temporality, voice, focalization, dialogics.

3. Refract Conrad's work through the category of the "aesthetic," as it has been reconfigured and challenged in the last decade or so of theory and criticism.


Various writings by Conrad Course-reader with selections by fellow Polish émigrées Witold Gombrowicz and Czeslaw Milosz; essays by Geoffrey Harpham, Jakob Lothe, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Aaron Fogel, Mikahil Bakhtin, Tony Tanner, Peter Brooks, James Phelan, S. Rimmon-Kenan.


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